10 Best Whale Watching Destinations in the USA

Last Updated on March 22, 2023 by Nikki Jain

Whales are majestic, misunderstood creatures—and when they come to the surface from the ocean depths, it’s an awesome experience. The first time you go whale-watching and see that puff of ocean spray or a slapping tail, you are going to fall in love! Fortunately, there are whale-watching locations throughout the coasts of America.

Here are the 10 best whale watching destinations in the USA.

Best Places for Whale Watching in the US

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1: Glacier Bay, Alaska

Glacier Bay, Alaska

The Whales: Blue Whales, Minke, Orca, and Humpback

Peak Whale Watching Season: June to August

Did you know that the blue whales you see here are often coming all the way from Japan? On a clear day, the waters around Glacier Bay are practically roiling with all the activity beneath the surface. Take a cruise out into the waters so you can see humpbacks, minkes, orcas, and blue whales as well as the breathtaking mountains and glaciers throughout the region.

Address: Glacier Bay, AK

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2: Juneau, Alaska

Juneau, Alaska
Flickr/Mark Mitchell

The Whales: Orca and Humpbacks

Peak Whale Watching Season: April to November

The capital of Alaska might be cold and frozen over most of the year, but it truly throws a warm welcome for the whales that make an appearance from April to November. You can usually see humpback whales from the shoreline; but if it is killer Orcas you are looking for, you can board an expedition cruise and see them in the wild.

Address: Juneau, AK

Also Read: Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Juneau, Alaska

3: Monterey Bay, California

Monterey Bay, California
Flickr/Mitchel Jones

The Whales: Gray, Blue, and Humpbacks

Peak Whale Watching Season: All Year

Whenever you go to Monterey Bay, you will find an abundance of whales. There are many whale-watching trips and tours available around the year that operate from Monterey’s beaches and docks. In April through December, you can see humpback and blue whales. Gray whales appear from December to April. Monterey Bay also has attracted killer whales (orcas) to the waters, because they hunt gray whales as they migrate north.

Address: Monterey Bay, CA

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4: San Juan Islands, Washington

San Juan Islands, Washington
Flickr/Ingrid Taylar

The Whales: Orca Whales, Gray, Minke, Humpback

Peak Whale Watching Season: Mid-April to Early October

When the largest island of the San Juan Islands chain is named “Orcas Island,” you know you’ve stumbled upon an incredible breeding ground for Orca whales. Though the black-and-white whales are the predominant species in the area and nicknamed the “Southern Residents”, you can also see other whale species if you look hard enough. The San Juan Islands are also home to seals, porpoises, otters, and sea lions.

Address: San Juan Islands, WA

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5: Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor, Maine
Wikimedia/Amy Humphries

The Whales: Minke, Fin, and Right Whales

Peak Whale Watching Season: Mid-April to October

Summer in Maine has never been more fun! Daily whale-watching expeditions are leaving from Bar Harbor, ME. In the middle of April, you are bound to see hungry finback, right, and minke whales in the cooler waters about 20 miles off the coast of Maine. Since the waters are full of plankton, copepods, and fish, the whales have a field day until October, when the whales head south for warmer water.

Address: 1 West St, Bar Harbor, ME 04609

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6: Cape May, New Jersey

Cape May, New Jersey

The Whales: Blue, Finback, Humpback, Minke, North Atlantic Right, Pilot

Peak Whale Watching Season: March to December

Similar to Long Island, New York (farther on down the list), the nutrient and food-rich waters of the Delaware Bay attract a great number of whales to the coast of Cape May, NJ throughout the year—with a vast majority of whales being seen March to December as they pass from farther North.

For whale-watching in Cape May, you don't have to leave the beach if you don't want to, but for the most trusted tour, you go with Cape May Whale Watcher, which is a 3-hour expedition on the bay.

Address: Cape May, New Jersey

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Also Read: Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Cape May, New Jersey

7: Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

The Whales: Fin, Minke, Humpback Whales

Peak Whale Watching Season: April to October

Did you know that the World Wildlife Fund has designated Massachusetts as one of the top 10 whale-watching spots in the entire world? The locals are sure to tell you that there’s a 99% chance you will see whales—especially Fin, Minke, and Humpbacks. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about Moby Dick.

Address: Cape Cod, Massachusetts

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Also Read: Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Cape Cod and the Islands

8: Maui, Hawaii

Maui, Hawaii

The Whales: Humpback Whales

Peak Whale Watching Season: December to April

While humpbacks aren’t the only residents of the waters around Maui and over 20 species of whales have been spotted, they are the stars. Nearly every year, over 3,000 humpback whales come to mate around Hawaii. If you are lucky enough, you might hear the males serenading the females. Also, you should visit the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, which covers 1,400 square miles to protect the 4,000-10,000 humpback whales that come to give birth to their calves.

Address: Maui, Hawaii

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9: Long Island, New York

Long Island, New York

The Whales: Sperm, North Atlantic Right, Blue, Sei, Fin, Humpback, and Minke Whales

Peak Whale Watching Season: July to Early September

The nutrient-dense and food-rich waters around Long Island make it a magnet for all types of whales and other marine life. July through Labor Day is prime time to catch these majestic creatures since that is when herring, sand eels, and marine crustaceans are less dormant. Several whale-watching adventure cruises are available during this time from the town of Montauk, off the southern tip of Long Island.

Address: Long Island, NY

10: Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach, Virginia

The Whales: Humpback Whales

Peak Whale Watching Season: December to March

The prime time to see whales off of Virginia’s coast would be December to March, so bundle up! Fin whales, the second largest mammals in the entire world (behind blue whales), are also known to make appearances alongside the humpback whales. During the warmer months, you are more likely to see bottlenose dolphins in the waters as they head to the Chesapeake Bay area.

Address: Virginia Beach, VA

Also Read: Best Things To Do in Virginia Beach

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